Hamilton’s Hanley, Hellgate’s Best build on state momentum with Western Montana Open singles titles

Hamilton's Hanley, Hellgate's Best build on state momentum with Western Montana Open singles titles

Colin Hanley and Brooke Best approach the summer months a little bit differently than most of their tennis-playing high school peers.

While most teens toss the rackets in the closet until next spring, avoiding the brutal heat, Best and Hanley remain hungry. For them, making it to the state tournament in their respective classes last May — Best in Class AA and Hanley in Class A — was just the beginning of their evolution on the court.

It was frustrating to lose at state, even playing my own teammate (Andy Purcell) and losing,” said Hanley, who went 2-2 at the Class A showcase meet. “That was definitely motivating to keep going and keep practicing, seeing the better players in the state and seeing where you need to be.

“I hit every night usually about one or two hours.”

Hanley and Best both breezed to singles championships in the U16 division at the Western Montana Open this weekend at the Peak Racquet Club. Hanley’s achievement was noteworthy because he was part of an eight-player draw and went in unseeded.

The 15-year-old bounced top-seeded Caleb Tober of Molt in his first match Friday, 6-1, 6-3. He dominated William Rudbach of Kalispell in the semifinals Saturday, 6-2, 6-3, then dispatched Kutuk White of Somers in the finals Sunday, 6-1, 6-3.

“It’s nice to come out and play some matches against some new players,” said Hanley, alluding to the fact Rudbach plays for Glacier and White for Flathead. “Playing against the same people over and over again during the season, you don’t get to see a lot of different strategies.

“I like tennis because it’s very strategy-based. And these tournaments are helpful to get more match experience. My serve has gotten more consistent this summer. I was pretty consistent today.”

Best, who is a rising sophomore at Missoula Hellgate, was even more dominating in her four-player singles draw. She beat Ciara Hanley of Hamilton, 6-1, 6-0, then posted 6-0, 6-0 wins over Brooklyn Williams of Dillon and Piper Nordstrand of Redlands, California.

She, like Colin Hanley, is determined to fare better at state after experiencing the tournament for the first time.

“State was super fun and I want to try to aim to maybe place or possibly win at state,” said Best. “Working through the summer will help me improve.

“For this tournament I had to get used to playing outside again, so that helps me evolve, knowing I can play well indoor and outdoor. Even if I’m playing people who aren’t giving me the most competition, I can still play my best.”

In boys U18 singles, Ryan Davis of Colorado took top honors with a win over Ben Stern of Bozeman in the finals, 7-5, 4-6, 14-12. Tober took the boys U14 title and the three-team boys U18 doubles competition was won by Hellgate’s Cyrus Kiely and Sebastian Silverstein.

In the adult tournament, Loyola Sacred Heart assistant tennis coaches Devon Sikora and Amy Bellamah-Daniel teamed up to win the open mixed doubles title Sunday with a win over Brad Knutson and Andrea Johnson of Billings, 7-5, 4-6, 10-3. That came a day after Sikora and Bellamah-Daniel outlasted Kevin Levine and Evelyn Dechans, 6-4, 5-7, 10-8.

Knutson, a tennis pro, was a dominant force in men’s open singles. He beat Layne Ryerson of Helena in the final Sunday, 6-3, 6-1, after stopping Flathead tennis standout Nolan White on Saturday, 6-4, 6-0.

In men’s open doubles, Knutson-Levine clinched top honors in a round robin format, posting two match wins. In 4.0 doubles, Kelly Crisp of Missoula and Peter Sherek of Lolo placed first. In 3.5 doubles, Gordon Terpe and Brian Clifton of Missoula took first. Caleb Warnken of Corvalis won in 4.5 singles while Liam Johnson of Missoula won in 4.0 singles and Carman Noble in 3.5 singles.

In women’s 4.5 singles, Jordie Bornstein of California beat Bellamah-Daniel in the finals. Renie Gibson of Missoula won the 3.5 singles title. The team of Terri Ruthruff and Sherri Varner won the 3.5 doubles draw.

In mixed 8.0 doubles, Liam and Shelly Johnson took first. In mixed 7.0 doubles, Ryerson and Leanna Markovics of Helena took top honors.

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